How Does Your Eardrum Work? *
AbstractEardrums are membranes inside your ears that vibrate when sound waves hit them. These vibrations are converted into electrical signals and sent to your brain, which allows you to hear sound. The frequency response of your eardrum, or the range of frequencies that will cause it to vibrate, determines your hearing range. Typical human hearing ranges from about 20 Hz up to 20,000 Hz, although the ability to hear high frequencies typically degrades as you get older. Some other animals can hear much higher frequencies—for example, dogs can hear up to about 45,000 Hz!
You can make a model of your eardrum using a bowl and plastic wrap, as shown in this video:
To turn this activity into a science project, try using a tone generator app or website instead of humming. This will allow you to play tones at a constant frequency to determine the frequency response of your eardrum model. Sweep through a range of frequencies to find out which ones cause the sprinkles to vibrate. Make sure you keep the phone or speakers at a constant volume and distance/orientation relative to the bowl for each frequency. Try changing different variables, like the size or material of the bowl, or the size of the sprinkles (or other granular materials, like salt or rice). How does this change the frequency response?
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Last edit date: 2018-06-16
- Henderson, T. (n.d.). Sound Waves and the Eardrum. The Physics Classroom. Retrieved May 30, 2018 from http://www.physicsclassroom.com/mmedia/waves/edl.cfm
- MED-EL (2010, April 12). Video Describing the Process of Hearing and How it Works | MED-EL. YouTube. Retrieved May 30, 2018 from https://youtu.be/7O-adw-HyrQ
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